Vintage Pucci Sunglasses and the first job in eyewear I ever wanted.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I decided to design sunglasses was get the Emilio Pucci license. I always thought Pucci sunglasses from the 1960s were cool. They represented the moment when Jackie O fashion got dosed with acid and erupted into colors; a peak of optimism nobody back then imagined would soon crumble into a bummer.

Pucci Sunglasses were first made in France. Unhemmed Vivara print scarves were laminated between two sheets of acetate, one clear one black, and the resulting sheet was then cut into sunglass frames. No two vintage frames were alike.

Emilio Pucci himself fascinated me. He was a nobleman: the Marchese di Barsento, an olympic skier, confidante of Mussolini’s daughter Edda Ciano ultimately helping her escape the Nazis to Switzerland with her father’s secret diaries. Pucci was interesting.

I sometimes imagined what it must have been like to be him, motoring through the streets of Florence on a Vespa from palace to palace, heading to a fitting: my glowing creations on the best models in the world. The vision spooled cinematically through the 70mm projector of my mind. It was sort of like a Fellini film only better.

I thought I could create pieces worthy of this vision so I decided to give the company a call. His daughter Laudomilla was in charge at that point. I spoke to her right hand man. I was invited to visit them at the Palazzo Pucci but never got any farther as they were presently taken over by LVMH.

I was very disappointed. I still found clearly delineated blocks of color on an eyewear frame compelling, though. I moved forward with the concept myself. I thought adding textures would add a lot of depth. The result was a series of frames sheathed in mosaics of exotic leathers consisting of alligator, ostrich, fish, frog and more. There were about 60 distinct colors and an almost infinite number of possibilities. They received a great reception.

I’ll share those sunglasses with you sometime.

Ultimately it worked out for the best. The leather mosaic sunglasses helped establish me with stylists and editors which helped facilitate a lot of good things that would happen.

Life’s a journey. You never know where it might lead.

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Images variously sourced from The Prince of Prints: Emilio Pucci, published by Taschen and pleasurephoto.wordpress.com.

Le Corbusier Eyeglasses; Memories of Paris and Silmo

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris AKA Le Corbusier was a Franco-Swiss architect. He wore thick eyeglasses which were characteristically French in their heft and cut. Brutalist eyeglasses, you might call them…

***

It’s trade show season. Fashion Week is winding its way around the world. Vision Expo West was last weekend and Silmo in Paris this past weekend. I’m busy working on something in New York and wasn’t at Silmo. I do remember past Silmos well.

The most unforgettable occurred a number of years ago. I could probably figure out which year but I won’t bother. I find the passage of time and associated thoughts of mortality less troubling if I view life as a continuum.

That year for a number of reasons travel plans were last minute. Although I can’t for the life of me recall why, I decided it’d be best to fly into Paris, drop my luggage off at the hotel and head directly to the show.

I couldn’t find a room in Paris in any of the hotels I was familiar with. I looked over the options and decided to book a room in a suburb that was almost directly on the Metro to Porte de Versailles where the trade show was being held. Just one transfer from the commuter line at Gare du Nord. Easy and economical.

Of course my plans hadn’t allowed for the transit strike which subsequently occurred.

I didn’t realize there was a transit strike at first. Nobody bothered to tell me: they didn’t speak English, I didn’t speak French. After a very long time a train finally rolled into the open air suburban station. It was packed like a cattle car with haggard, stressed-out, angry people. “Looks like Paris commutes are just as cheerful as New York commutes”, I said to myself.

I then noticed the train was heading in the wrong direction. I managed to communicate my alarm at which point I was told of the strike and that I was on some sort of provisional shuttle.

The whole thing comes back to me in dribs and drabs, more like a hallucination than a memory…

The only information was rumors in a language I didn’t speak.

Just for context I should mention that all the while I was groaning under a 50 pound bag with a shoulder strap that was shredding the Armani black label sport coat I was wearing. A numb, ongoing death march followed from one station to another, one provisional shuttle to another, on and on until finally, sometime that afternoon I made it to the trade show utterly exhausted.

The punch line was few customers had made it due to the strike.

If there’s one lasting memory I have from that day it’s the hurry the French convention center workers were in to close up and leave. For some reason I still can’t figure out, the public bathrooms were closed by means of an impenetrable, roll-down steel gate, like you might find on a liquor store in a ghetto. Of course they didn’t bother to check the stalls before locking up. I can still hear this one poor man literally howling while hammering and shaking the gate from inside.

The howling faded into a general urban din as I stepped out the doors and into the night, 50 pound bag slung over what was left of my Armani. The worst part of the journey was to come…

***

As far as I know Le Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles à Paris wasn’t the handiwork of Le Corbusier but his legacy is felt in the massive amounts of concrete everywhere.

I suppose the legacy of his glasses is still with us as well. Thick round eyewear has had a resurgence the past 5 years or so. His preferred style, however, was jauntier and more eccentric than the versions proliferating now.

Here’s a version from my personal collection:

These are acetate, though I’ve seen some nice ones made of actual tortoise. Some of the nicest ones came from the Jura mountain region in France, just over the border from where Le Corbusier himself was from.

In those days architects had style.

Shuron 12K Gold Filled Glasses & an American History lesson

Pictured is some of the best made mass produced eyewear ever. A lovely art deco pattern zigs and zags over every surface of the beveled eyewires and temples. The cast skull temples gleam.

The process of gold filling a frame like this was complicated. The highest concentrations of gold were placed at points of wear, where frame met skin. In addition note the solid 14 karat nose pads, which were seldom seen after the early 1930s. They were impervious to skin oils.

Almost immediately upon taking office in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order confiscating all Americans’ gold. Although eyewear manufacturers continued to make gold filled frames until Richard Nixon ended the gold standard for foreign exchange in 1971, nose pads henceforth would be celluloid.

They were a weak link in terms of durability.

From a quality perspective the interwar period was probably the pinnacle for mass produced worn objects. Prior to that mass production methods needed further refinement. After that a race to the bottom ensued in which cutting costs took precedence over everything else.

All in all, between frames like these, 20 ounce denim work clothes and more ubiquitous tailors and seamstresses, the average American dressed like a king. Even today’s luxury goods seldom measure up to yesterday’s standard bourgeois accoutrements.

For all the expansion of capital that’s occurred in the past 90 years, it’s hard to look at such things and not conclude prosperity has diminished.